Raw Human Nature

July 8th, 2016

Twins fighting

If you ever want to see raw human nature on full display, have twins. Just the biting alone will reassure you that we are all, at our core, animals fighting for survival. We might eventually be able to be socialized so that we seem like civilized beings beyond the fray of the wild, but it’s always right there, just under the surface, waiting to emerge. The way a lion in the zoo might seem docile and content for years, then maul a small child who happens to get into his enclosure. It’s instinct, and it’s not pretty.

Tens of times a day, my daughters bite, pinch, claw, push, and shove each other—often over a toy, food, object of curiosity, or just to get in my lap. “We don’t bite” is something I say all too frequently. It falls on deaf ears. Sometimes I think they are literally deaf, so little do they react when I chide them for being mean to each other. But I know they are not deaf because they can hear me open the dishwasher from three rooms away. 

My intimate familiarity with the brutal realness of human nature does not come just from watching my twin daughters interact, but from observing my own reactive nature as I attempt to function alongside them without enough sleep on a daily basis. When a small child bites you very hard, and from out of nowhere, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to smile and say “That hurts Mommy.” My instinctual reaction is usually to scream “OW WHAT THE FUCK,” I must confess.

I feel like a zookeeper trying to corral a bunch of wild animals, of which I suspect I might myself be one. It’s confusing. 

Then I look around at the world and am not surprised to see others acting from their wild natures, too. Reacting via fear and anger, lashing out first, protecting themselves against perceived dangers at any cost—then backtracking into their identities as civilized beings to try to rationalize their behavior. We see each other as different species, not properly enclosed in our respective areas. We look around for a zookeeper and find that there are just other animals, no more or less equipped than ourselves—although often better armed.

I don’t mean to sound pious. I am truly one of the savage beasts. There are people in the media and even in my own life whom I deplore, whom I cannot relate to, whose actions are inexcusable to me, their belief systems unacceptable. But I have to live amongst them, which means I have to try every day to be compassionate.

Sometimes I can do this. Sometimes I cannot. Sometimes my daughters pause before they bite, and I look at them sternly, and they might even be able to control themselves this time. They are 18 months old. They are tiny little tigers. I hope I can manage to reach beyond my own animal nature and somehow teach them better.

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